EFP 62: How To Hire Your First Virtual Assistant

Justin Cooke

September 5, 2013

How To Hire Your First VAIf you’re secretly worried about your first Virtual Assistant “hire” – we’re here to tell you that you’re not alone.

What if he or she sucks? What if you don’t have enough work for your VA to do? How do you choose someone that’s likely to LAST?

Joe and I are on the ground in the country that most of you are looking to hire virtual assistants and we wanted to give you some real-world advice, tips, and tricks when it comes to hiring your first VA. In this episode we’ll cover topics that include what projects you should be hiring for, how to ensure you’re building the team that you need, and how to get the most out of your new VA hire.

Hiring and Maximizing Your Virtual Assistant’s Effectiveness

Whether you’re currently working with a virtual assistant or looking to hire someone in the near future, this is an episode you won’t want to miss.

Also – at the top of the show we mentioned a business/site giveaway! Leave your best comments on why you want the site and what you plan to do with it, and we might pick you to win both GetMeListedNow.com and GetMeListedNow.co.uk!

Check Out This Week’s Episode Here:

Direct Download – Right Click, Save As

Topics Discussed This Week Include:

  • Business Website Giveaway! – Listen in for details!
  • Replace yourself on PROFITABLE streams of revenue
  • Hire With Specificity – Nobody can do everything
  • DIY Vs. Done-For-You services
  • Tips And Tricks To Weed Out The Donkeys
  • Using The Buddy System To Your Advantage
  • Skill Transfering And The “Access” Debate


So – what struggles have you dealt with when looking for your first VA hire? Any tips you’d like to share? Let us know on Twitter, drop us a voice recording, or leave us a comment – we’d love to hear from you!

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  1. Dave Gibbins says:

    Episode 62 was an awesome podcast! As always! There are so many weeks where you bring out a podcast just as I am in the thought process of the subject you host. Hiring your first VA is one of those steps I have not yet taken. Lots of tips in there for any VA hiring novices like myself!

    I have put to use your ‘Easter egg’ tip when hiring a developer on Elance, thanks you guys, I was able to discard about a third of the applicants with ease! Some looked to have great English but they didnt read my job thoroughly obviously!

    Which brings me onto the Getmelistednow.co.uk domain name… I am working on an app which promoted bars and clubs in the UK, it is set to go live very soon. The plan is to then roll out a similar app for restaurants. getmenlistednow.co.uk (or/and .com) would be an awesome side product to go alongside the app. Where I can use my digital marketing and SEO skill with the bars, clubs and restaurants I have already partnered with to do great local SEO and help them further (with a little more consulting money for me ;) ).

    Keep up the great work, blogs and podcasts Justin and Joe, you give so much out for free and its appreciated!

  2. Justin Cooke says:

    Hey bobdak,

    Interesting that you’ll use this episode in the reverse…to help people land a job…awesome!

    I dig the GMLN plan…I think you’re on to something there! We’ll discuss the “winner” next week…thanks for the comment and strategy outline!

  3. Justin Cooke says:

    Hey Tung!

    I just read about your journey with VA’s on your site…interesting stuff:


    I like how you used filters and canned responses with applicants…that was a pretty slick idea. Definitely important to do the face-to-face with final interviews, I think…

    Definitely document the job…have your VA do it, in fact! You should already have the basic/general outline documented, but you can have the VA add in the more specific details…

  4. Justin Cooke says:

    Hey, Mark…

    Love the strategy! Joe and I will discuss who we’ll be giving the sites to next week. I dig your strategy…if you’re the winner I’d love to have a call or two to go over tactics and (hopefully) help give you a running start!

  5. Justin Cooke says:

    Hey Rick!

    We’ll definitely keep you in the running for GMLN – Joe and I will be discussing next week!

    Glad to hear you’re having great results with IntelliTheme! Most of the feedback has been really positive, we’re happy to report!

  6. mark savastano says:

    Apologize if this is a repeat, it didn’t seem to post.

    Excellent Podcast, and I purchased the Pro – Empire Starter Pack last month. I am learning a lot doing all the tasks related to building and ranking niche sites.


    I would like to be considered for the http://getmelistednow.com/ and GetMeListedNow.co.uk giveaway.

    I currently do WP sites on the side for small businesses, as well as SEO. I have been really digging into SEO and
    keeping up with the latest trends, etc. Some of the experts I follow are Glen from http://www.Viperchill.com Brian Dean from http://www.backlinko.com, and http://www.moz.com, and several others.

    I live just outside of NYC, and there is such a gap between local businesses and an online presence. I feel there is so much value to be offered.

    Most service, or even product-based businesses, could really expand their customers by taking advantage of SEO.

    For example: take a search for “Location”and “Service”. Using Long Tail Pro you would see that these types of searches are generally low searches, maybe a
    couple of hundred at most. The first page of Google is ripe for this kind of term.

    Now for most Affiliate Marketers and E-commerce people it’s generally too low to even bother with. This is what is
    perfect for small businesses, here are some advantages:

    a. Easy to rank for.
    b. Very targeted traffic(high CTR), these people have their ‘Wallets’ or ‘cell phones’ in hand.
    c. Converting even a handful of customers a month could mean thousands of dollars in new business for a service company or a lifetime customer for a retail/ product store

    Real-life Example:

    I’m Italian and I love good Italian bread, even in North Jersey it’s not always easy or convenient to find. A few weeks ago, I was having dinner party, and did not want to travel down to the usual places(hour drive).

    I threw in the search “North Jersey” “Best Italian bread” and “Bakery” “North
    Jersey”, and the results are total garbage. The top 10 consisted of 5 Yelp reviews and a Bakery that’s been out of business for two years?!?! The site hasn’t been updated in two years and they rank on page #1.

    Question: How hard would it be to outrank a bunch of Yelp reviews and a closed down bakery?

    Hint: Not that hard.


    For GetMeListedNow.com, I would reach out to local businesses in the area and start contacting them for the service, doing some preliminary research on their business. I would even do it for free in the beginning until I built up some reputation. Work out an arrangement like, I‘ll do this for nothing or minimal cost, and after
    one or two months if you like the results you will agree to pay this. I would concentrate on over-delivering, and working closely with each business, until businesses were knocking on my door to give me work.

    Things I wouldn’t do:

    Waste time on the latest marketing trends or get heavily involved in Social Media, Email Marketing, or Advertising. I would
    concentrate on creating the best value out there, over-delivering, and building a rock solid foundation for this business. Once that
    is firmly planted, then strategically expanding and widening my audience would make sense.

    This business is very scalable. You could expand into new territories and could someday even replace the model for
    listing services like Angie’s List and Service Magic, except it would be free.
    for the consumers.

    Start Locally, Think Globally.

    That’s my plan.



  7. Jennifer says:

    Thanks guys for the podcast it was very reassuring.

    I seem to be going through SEO/WP VAs like crazy.

    It’s been 1 week with the latest and I have to repeat my directions a million times. I say DO NOT remove the photos on the WP site and when they submit their work all images are gone and everything I asked for was not done correctly.

    My VA even called me the wrong name and spelt my name wrong.

    I w have a full time job and work with people overseas all day long and they seem to understand me just fine. Obviously there can be miscommunication and I completely understand there will be hand holding – but when do you decide enough is enough and this person is not teachable?

    Any advice is very much appreciated!

    • Sounds to me like a training issue, although you might be hiring the wrong people too. Use the grammar test we recommend so you can be confident that the candidate’s English is strong. Use our recommended training process and be sure to document what you want done using screenshots or recordings.

  8. OMG. No KPI? WTF.

    Just kidding guys, great primer on getting started with a VA,
    Very educational and very actionable,


    • Yeah we’ll leave those acronyms for the corporate suits. However, when dealing with a bunch of candidates, it makes sense to objectively score them so you can identify the clear leaders. Pick 3-5 categories and average the score. Top candidates make it to the second round.

  9. Miki Vicioso says:

    Hey guys! I’ve been hiring people for the past 6 months, I finally have a team of 5 :) it was a process and have to go over several people really impress with the bad quality of workers out there. Anyway! great podcast!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      It can be a learning process, for sure…and sometimes hard to find the right people!

      Careful, though…when you have problem after problem with people on your team, new hires, etc…eventually you have to turn that finger (and blame) around at yourself and see what you’re doing wrong. When everyone else starts to seem like X…there might be something wrong on your end!

      Joe and I were joking about that ourselves today, actually, when it comes to us and hiring developers, lol.

  10. Charles says:

    Hey Justin and Joe,

    I know people are going to be talking about all these things why they are standup people, their grandma recently dead, they desire it due to their left eye missing, their girlfriend/boyfriend left them for their mother/dad, etc(the last one was sick! I know).

    Well, sorry, but everyone has a story why they should desire it. I could say I’m x, x,x,x,x,x,x, and x, but it doesn’t matter.

    You might ask why I’m say this, since I’ve talked to Justin before, and he knows a bit of my story. I’m not saying this isn’t important, but the fact of the matter is that everyone has a history. I’m saying this doesn’t matter due to one fact, making a business isn’t about your recent history, your past, or if your in college. It might mean experience in some cases, but the fact of the matter is your brown nosing(here’s a tissue), and that you go to college isn’t revolutionary. It’s more of a join the club kind of thing.

    It’s all about drive, working hard, and hustling, but most of all the smarts to do it. Do you want your old business in the hands of someone that has some great list of ideas they read from a WSO or typical hiring response statements such as they can bake their grandma cookies(too soon with the grandma jokes? sorry), think of something they “can” do, or their biggest fault is they care too much(aw that too sweet?). It’s all about thinking of interesting ways to grow the business, and someone that will really do(not “can”) it. Someone that does(again, not can) allow you to look back at it, and say wow I’m glad I left that business to Charles. (ignore the psychological transfer process going on there with the name drop. charles. charles.)

    If that’s what you want… I’m waiting for you.

    PS: Sorry about your grandma dude that sucks, mind if you share that cookie recipe with me?

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Yeah, looking at results and what’s actually been done is important. You can’t totally discount the backstory, but there’s definitely more weight applied to results, I think!

  11. Curtis Cooper says:

    HI Guys,

    I really enjoyed the episode. Lot of good tips and I also run into a lot the same problems. Especially people not showing up for interviews. I have had days that were fully booked with face to face interviews in my office and not even one person showed up! Talk about frustrating. I would say on the average, I get about a 50% that are no call no show. Some will send me a text a few hours after the interview and give me some lame excuse.

    One thing that was not mentioned is the amount of pay that the staff are getting. I have found through much trial and error, is when I pay my staff more the performance, attendance, retention and attitude is greatly improved and well worth the money spent.

    Hope to see you guys again soon!

    • Glad you like this episode Curtis.

      As for pay, I always advise hourly pay in the Philippines. This rewards employees who work a full day, overtime, and holidays. Yes perhaps efficiency is not valued as much, but there are other ways to track that.

      We should get together for a beer some time and swap strategies.

      • Curtis Cooper says:

        OK Joe, I would like that. Hope to see you soon!

      • Iain Robson says:

        Isn’t that a bit different than what Chris Ducker does?

        I think he does 500$ flat rate. If my memory serves me correctly.

        I really like that idea though Joe it makes perfect sense.

        • Are you talking about VSF? That’s a flat fee just to find the agent — you still need to pay the agent directly. I’m not sure what Chris recommends but I know he would prefer full time work. And I think he would agree with me that hourly is the way to go.

          • Iain Robson says:

            Yeah for VSF.

            I know there is a flat fee to help find a VA, but after that I am not sure how the pay works. I’ve heard 500$ a month but that may be dated now.

            Chris suggests a full time VA over a part time one for sure.

            In either case, hourly makes the most sense.

          • To be clear I agree, it’s better to hire VA full time. But even at full time I think hourly pay is more rewarding for both the employer and employee.

          • Iain Robson says:

            Have you ever experimented with flat rate?

          • Yes, we have and I will always try to stay away from it. I recommend this to my outsourcing clients as well, especially with new untested agents. Sometimes they take my advice and sometimes not, with mixed results. To me the small number of horror stories of people not showing up for work on time, taking too many days if off is proof enough to always go hourly.

          • Justin Cooke says:

            How much you pay per month is going to depend on the skillsets required, experience level, etc.

            Keep in mind that Chris has to play both sides of the fence there…on the one hand he’s recruiting VA’s to come work with VSF for good rates, cool bosses, awesome projects, etc. On the other, he’s helping business owners find good VA’s.

            I’d also mention that you can agree to a particular rate (i.e. $500/month) and have that broken down hourly ($3.12/hour at 160 hours per month…a little less for accounting nerds!) You can track via something like HiveDesk…

  12. Peter Nilsson says:

    Ok guys..tell me..are u not getting the reults u use to with EMD and therefore going towards brandable domains with linkjuice..have you experienced that the value of EMDs has gone down a lot recently and do you regurly try to register EMD and redirect expired domains to your EMD..help me out here I just registred and is plowing through your guide at the moment..have some experience in niche websites and would really like to hear your view on this.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Peter,

      We’re pulling up the data now on this. (It’s manual…taking a while) What we’ve seen so far is that the sites are still profitable for us, EMD’s still work, etc…just not as well as they did when we first started.

      For example, a site that earned $10/month with us before was worth around $250-$270 in a sale. ($50-$70 in earnings and $200 in sales value)

      Now…a site earning $7/month is only worth $160-$180. That works…just not AS profitable as before.

      There’s also another concern – we want to sell and support sites in the $4K – $20K range. Most of our (current) niche sites don’t get to that level. If we’re going to get there and serve that market, we have to build bigger, higher-earning sites, if that makes sense…

      Trust me, if we thought the niche sites we were building today didn’t work or were not profitable, we’d dump them like a bad habit. Otherwise, we’d be throwing good money after bad…not a good path for us!

  13. tiedtothe wind says:

    Trying to come up with a great reason why you should give my that .co.uk site. I must be under valuing myself, because I can’t think of one yet.

    Great show though guys, some great tips.
    Eddy. The eventual entrepreneur

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Eddy!

      We just want to make sure we’re sending them off to a “good home”, so to speak. They were our babies, so we want to send them off to someone that might have a plan or idea on how to use them. :-)

  14. Gunnar Bengtsson says:

    Very timely podcast subject, I just submitted my job description to Virtual Staff Finder yesterday! I’m looking for a low level web developer to start replacing myself on some of the more time consuming tasks I do on a daily basis.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Awesome, Gunnar!

      Yeah, VSF is great, but you have to be pretty specific when it comes to what you’re looking for. The more specific you are, the better chance they’ll find you exactly what you need…it sounds like you’re off to a good start! Let us know how it works out for you, eh?

      • Gunnar Bengtsson says:

        I’ll definitely keep you guys posted on how it goes Justin. By the way, I like the idea of having them do that grammar test, I’ll see if I can implement that this time.

        • Using the grammar test will revolutionize your hiring. No joke, it’s that good. It measures so many more things than just grammar — like can they pay attention for a few hours or do they have a good enough internet connection with a quiet place to work.

          • Gunnar Bengtsson says:

            So I’ve been interviewing web developers yesterday and today. Very interesting process to go through. I love the grammar test as it gives me an actual measurable data point to look at when comparing candidates. I have three candidates that are all, as far as I can tell, reasonable well versed technically. All three have a couple of years of work experience and are in their early to mid twenties. But one of them scored an 86 on the grammar test – the others scored 79. All else being equal I’m leaning towards hiring the candidate with the highest grammar score. Makes sense, right? I guess it also helps that this candidate did well in the Skype interview and was the only one I had an actual face to face video feed from – the others were voice only.

          • Makes sense, though I would says with developers a keen mind and ability to take objectives to a reality is more important than grammar scores. 79 and 86 in terms of this test are close — they good enough. I imagine none of the candidates will have trouble communicating in English. I would focus more on how you jive best with and who has a track record of success.

          • Justin Cooke says:

            “All else being equal” your point about the grammar test makes sense…but I would make damn sure one isn’t better than the other in the ways Joe’s mentioned here. He’s right in that there are other things (track record, seeing eye-to-eye) that are more important than the 7 point score, IMO.

          • Gunnar Bengtsson says:

            Good points guys. Making it even harder to choose, the highest test score applicant actually has the lowest credentials – some type of technical college/computer studies, where both of the others have a BSc in Information Technology. My gut feeling says they all should do well in this position though. VSF has done a good job of screening candidates.

            In the end I’m just going to take a deep breath and pick one of the three. Ideally I could have gone with all three and seen which one did better over time but I can’t really justify hiring more than one person at this time.

  15. seba112 says:

    Nice Podcats guys. Hoho….Justin is coming back to the Podcast:X
    this or that? the Sky Is Blue :)))))))) I fell off with my chair of laugh.

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